- Provide common ground where all Mississippi PAs can be heard.
- Assure quality healthcare for all Mississippians.
- Provide CME programs and educational workshops for PAs.
- Advance the PA concept through the education of both professional and lay persons.
- Mold the shape of our profession by proactive intervention in legislative affairs.
MAPA advocates and educates on behalf of the profession and the patients PAs serve. MAPA works to ensure the professional growth, personal excellence and recognition of PAs. We also enhance their ability to improve the quality, accessibility and costeffectiveness of patient-centered healthcare.
MAPA holds two Controlled Substances Education Programs each year open to Physician Assistants (PAs) and Physician Assistant students, as well as an annual continuing medical education (CME) program.
Board of Directors
Leah Jones Calder, PA-C - President Elect
Leah Jones Calder is a Physician Assistant in Dermatology at Belle Meade Dermatology in Flowood.
She received her Bachelor of Science in 2002 at Delta State University. She then moved to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Emory University earning her Masters in Health Science in 2004 from their Physician Assistants Studies Program.
She joined a private practice Dermatology group in Atlanta after graduation until she moved back to Mississippi in 2010 joining Belle Meade Dermatology.
Leah is board certified by the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants and has been affiliated with the Mississippi Academy of Physician Assistants since 2014 as the Director of the Central District of this organization until 2015 when she was appointed MAPA President Elect.
Vanessa Perniciaro, PA-C
Vanessa Perniciaro is a Physician Assistant for ApolloMD and practices at Merit Health River Region in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She specializes in Emergency Medicine.
She graduated Summa Cum Laude from University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with a Bachelor of Science in 2005. Vanessa earned her Master of Physician Assistant Studies from Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, in 2014.
Vanessa is board certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Her professional affiliations include the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the Mississippi Academy of Physician Assistants.
Vanessa was Student Affairs Chair for MAPA in 2013 and has been active on the board since. She has been the Secretary of MAPA since July 2015 and is also chair for the Committee for Public Relations.
Laura Saia, PA-C - Treasurer
Laura Saia is a physician assistant for North Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic clinic in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Laura graduated cum laude from the University of Southern Maine in Portland, Maine with a bachelors in human biology in 2007. Laura earned her masters of physician assistant studies from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 2010.
Laura moved to Mississippi in 2011 from Boston, Massachusetts. She has been the treasure MAPA since 2013.
Laura is board certified by the National Commission on Certification Physician Assistant. Her professional affiliations include American Academy of physician Assistants, Mississippi academy of Physician Assistants, Physician Assistants in Orthopedic Surgery, and Alpha Xi Delta and helps support the Choose Children Foundation.
Heather Dunham, PA-C - Secretary
Heather Dunham is a Physician Assistant for Medical Associates of Vicksburg, specializing in Internal Medicine. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana with a Bachelor of Science in biology in 2010. Heather earned a Masters of Medical Science from Mississippi College and then completed her Master of Science in Medicine from the Mississippi College Physician Assistant program in 2015. She is board certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Her professional affiliations include the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Mississippi Academy of Physician Assistants, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. She enjoys medical relief work in Honduras and has a passion for helping those less fortunate.
Matthew Garner, PA-C - Director of Northern Region
Matthew Garner, PA-C is a Urology Physician Assistant at Urology Associates in Tupelo, MS. He graduated from the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Program in 2013. He is also a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the Urological Association of Physician Assistants (UAPA). He is married to Bethany Garner, PA-C whom he met while in PA school. They reside in Tupelo, MS with their two dogs. He enjoys reading comic books, watching movies, attending concerts, and traveling.
Gavin Nowell, PA-C - Director of Central Region
Gavin Nowell is a Physican Assistant for MEA Medical Clinics and practices at the Richland Clinic primarily in Richland, Miss. He also works at Baptist ER part-time.
He received his Bachelor of Science in 2007 from Mississippi College in Clinton, MS. He earned his Master of Science of Medicine from Mississippi College Physician Assistant School in 2013.
Nowell is board certified by the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants. His professional affiliations include the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the Mississippi Academy of Physician Assistants.
Nowell was Vice President of the Donald Fisher Society in 2011. He currently serves as Director at Large-Central region and as a Legislative Chair for MAPA since July 2015. He recently was voted to serve as a representative for the PA Task Force that works alongside the Mississippi Medical Licensure Board.
Stephen English, PA-C - Director of Coastal Region
Mississippi Academy of Physician Assistants
c/o MC PA Program
200 S. Capitol Street, Box 4053
Clinton, MS 39058